Top 20 Most Shocking Moments in Video Games
Top 20 Most Shocking Moments in Video Games

Top 20 Most Shocking Moments in Video Games

VOICE OVER: Callum Janes
Video games usually bring us a lot of joy, but these moments were downright disturbing. For this list, we'll be looking at scenes and sequences in gaming that clearly – and quite successfully – aim to unnerve their audience. Our countdown includes eye surgery in "Dead Space 2" (2011), the story of the Interlopers in “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” (2006), Pickman's gallery in “Fallout 4” (2015), your final fate in “INSIDE” (2016), and more!

Video games usually bring us a lot of joy, but these moments were downright disturbing. For this list, we’ll be looking at scenes and sequences in gaming that clearly – and quite successfully – aim to unnerve their audience. Our countdown includes eye surgery in "Dead Space 2" (2011), the story of the Interlopers in “The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” (2006), Pickman’s gallery in “Fallout 4” (2015), your final fate in “INSIDE” (2016), and more! Which of these moments did you find most disturbing? Let us know in the comments below!

#20: The Story of the Interlopers

“The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess” (2006)

Many “Zelda” games bring new lore to the series, but only one succinctly sums up its lore through one of the most horrifying cutscenes imaginable. After beating the game’s third dungeon, Lanayru will show Link the story of the Interlopers. Long ago, these Hylians wielded dark magic in pursuit of the Sacred Realm and were banished by the Light Spirits. We would’ve been happy to simply be told this, but Lanayru gives Link a nightmarish vision instead. Everything about this cutscene gives us chills from the cold white eyes to Link’s violent scream to copies of Ilia eerily laughing, which never fails to echo in our heads long after the scene ends.

#19: The Botchling

“The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” (2015)

On the trail for his adopted daughter Ciri, Geralt is asked by Baron Strenger to locate the Baron’s wife and daughter, in exchange for information. However, as per the series’ tradition of cruel subversion, it turns out Spenger’s wife vanished after suffering a horrific miscarriage as a result of domestic abuse. If that weren’t ugly enough of a twist, the player then has to confront the fetus – now a mutated creature called a Botchling. Whether you choose to free it from its curse or slay it in battle, the experience of witnessing this poor creature’s plight is utterly horrific.

#18: Revenge against Zeus

“God of War III” (2010)

Imagine for a moment that you’re in the shoes of Kratos, the former God of War, whose quest to strike down every other deity in the Greek pantheon is nearing its end. You’ve got Zeus, the god of thunder, on the ropes… now what? For Kratos, this means taking advantage of the situation and brutally punching Zeus’ face in, reducing it to a bloody pulp. But then Kratos keeps punching, with his onslaught only ending when the player so chooses. It’s senseless, excessive and grotesque as a course of action, yet it feels fitting considering how truly empty of all but his most violent urges Kratos has become.

#17: Robotic Religious Death Cult

“Nier: Automata” (2017)

Death, Faith, Humanity & Robot Sentience? In one of NieR Automata’s most memorable moments, these topics intertwine to form someone quite chilling. Part way through 2B’s mission, she is asked by robotic ally Pascal to help negotiate a peace treaty between her village and another robotic community made up of religious believers. Only these believers aren’t exactly your typical ‘pray for peace’ types. From here the sequence to escape the believers factory only gets darker, with some machines hiding in fear of death from their homicidal brethren, while others opt to take their own lives peacefully yet still with hesitation. Plus the soundtrack constantly repeats the chant “Become as Gods” to make sure the player won’t be forgetting any of this, anytime soon.

#16: Hortencia

“Phantasmagoria” (1995)

In a game packed with brutal deaths and cruel twists of fate, this stands out as being especially harsh. While exploring the greenhouse of her newly-purchased New England estate, author Adrienne Delaney happens upon a vase that – surprise, surprise – contains a human skeleton. Already an unsettling moment, we’re then shown a flashback explaining exactly why that skeleton is there: it’s what remains of Hortencia, the first of several wives of the demon-possessed magician Carno. Enraged during a conversation, Carno kills Hortencia by way of shoving dirt down her throat.

#15: The Dark Room

“Life is Strange” (2015)

Sometimes, being the hero sucks. Case in point: as Episode 5 of “Life is Strange” opens, photography student Max Caulfield finds herself strapped to a chair in what appears to be a private studio. Using her ability to time travel through photos, Max discovers that she is in the Dark Room, a location where her teacher Mark Jefferson takes unwilling women and photographs them in compromising positions. Jefferson’s sheer sociopathy and implicit interest in his students gets clearer and creepier as he speaks to Max, illustrating just how warped one’s mind would have to be to justify this behavior.

#14: The Man in Yellow

“I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” (1995)

Certain evils stick with you, no matter how far you go or how hard you try to move on. In her segment of “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”, the engineer Ellen finds herself dealing with a recurring issue of being uncomfortable around the color yellow. She struggles through the pain to solve puzzle after puzzle before ending up in an elevator she recognizes… and then a man in yellow materializes before her. Ellen’s despair at the sight of the man who assaulted her adds to the unflinching cruelty and horror of the scene.

#13: Your Final Fate

“INSIDE” (2016)

Terrible things happening to younger characters is always going to be tough to watch, yet somehow this is on a whole other level of disturbing. Throughout “INSIDE”, the central character – a young nameless boy – passes by several citizens being guided along to parts unknown. Then, after a trek through a research facility, the truth is laid bare: these people are being merged into giant, blob-like monstrosities as part of a twisted experiment. Alas, the boy is absorbed into one such being, becoming just another set of limbs flailing about on a fleshy abomination.

#12: Losing Your Hand

“Resident Evil 7: Biohazard” (2017)

Not long after reuniting with his wife Mia and having to battle her for the first time, Ethan Winters ends up in quite the predicament. Ethan’s exploration of the Baker house gets interrupted by the suddenly revived Mia, who proceeds to impale his hand with a screwdriver. The scene gets progressively more gruesome as Ethan struggles mightily to free his hand… just in time to have it lopped off by a chainsaw. Besides the obvious horror of seeing someone lose a limb, it’s just as disturbing to watch the hand get stapled back onto its stump, all in glorious first-person view.

#11: Elizabeth’s Lobotomy

“BioShock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 2” (2014)

Late in “Burial at Sea: Episode 2”, dimension-hopping heroine Elizabeth completes a task for the enigmatic Atlas, who rewards her assistance by taking her captive. We’re then treated to a first-person view of Elizabeth being given too much truth serum, going into a two-week coma, and waking up to Atlas preparing lobotomy instruments. Every tap on the piercing orbitoclast instrument, every pained cry by Elizabeth as the procedure continues – it makes for a lot of wincing on the audience’s part. That Atlas was also willing to do the same to Sally, a Little Sister, only adds to the troubling nature of this scene.

#10: White Phosphorus

“Spec Ops: The Line” (2012)

Perspective is key when trying to upturn the audience’s understanding of events, as is illustrated half-way through “Spec Ops: The Line. During the eighth mission Captain Walker and his team find themselves overlooking one of the Damned 33rd’s base camps, with a cache of white phosphorus shells conveniently nearby. Walker gives the order to fire said shells on the camp, visualized to the audience as cloudy bursts on a computer screen. The disconnect between our perception of the action and the visceral horror of what actually happened is hammered home when, minutes later, it’s discovered the 33rd were evacuating civilians. And then we’re shown exactly what white phosphorus does to the human body… good luck sleeping after this one.

#9: Liquified by the Collectors

“Mass Effect 2” (2010)

Seeing your comrades get killed can be a hard pill to swallow, but witnessing them become human sacrifices to an evil alien race's experiment is a hill no one wants to cross. If you take a bit too long to get to the Collector Base, you arrive a smidge too late and have to watch the perky Yeoman Kelly Chambers get painfully turned into goo. With the process already underway, players are left with nothing but Kelly Chambers’ screams of terror while the rescue team desperately searches for a way to free the surviving members. If that wasn’t bad enough, a newly freed Dr. Chakwas goes into even more graphic details about the whole liquefaction process. Gross…

#8: Randy Marsh's Operation

“South Park: The Stick of Truth” (2014)

During this twisted segment of the unorthodox RPG game, players find themselves in a situation where they must perform a fake operation on Randy Marsh. The mini-game's procedures are inappropriately detailed and it’s also in the best interest of the player to not mess up and expose Randy, as it will result in the main character being shot to death by agents dressed in black. Is there ever “too much” when it comes to South Park? Australia and Europe thought so, since this moment is censored from the game in those versions.

#7: Every Mortal Kombat Fatality

“Mortal Kombat” series (1992-)

After the announcer yells “Finish Him!” You know what to do. In this fighting game, the combatants fight for keeps, and hold nothing back when it's time to claim their victory. The Mortal Kombat series is infamous for their extremely violent fatality moves, which have only managed to get more graphic and gory as the years have progressed. Broken bones, misplaced organs, and torn ligaments are usually only the beginning of the horror show once the player enters that special sequence of buttons. Anyone who’s ever been upset by an ESRB rating has this mechanic to thank, since they were the tipping point that inspired the now infamous ratings board.

#6: Pickman’s Gallery

“Fallout 4” (2015)

In a rather chilling homage to H.P. Lovecraft’s Pickman’s Model, located to the north-west of the Railroad’s Old North Church lies an art gallery where its titular artist uses a certain style to create his work: That style being: People, dead people. Among Pickman’s finest works is a mural created with the heads and mutilated corpses of Raiders. Oh and those red portraits you see around the gallery? I got news for you: That’s not paint he used. This whole thing is so twisted that you’d be forgiven if you missed the bobble head in the last room.

#5: Being Forced to Purge Quarantine Platform

“Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” (2015)

MGS5 really REALLY goes above and beyond to shock the player. Whether it's surgically removing a bomb from a conscious womans, or bearing witness to Quiet being tortured, Boss has never been afraid to get his hands dirty for the greater good. However, nothing could have prepared him for this ordeal. After a second string of the vocal cord parasite finds its way into Mother Base, Big Boss is forced to shoot and kill each and every soldier infected as they suffer and beg for mercy. Snake marches through and completes his mission in complete silence.

#4: Finger Removal

“Heavy Rain” (2010)

How far would you go to save someone you love? This question is put to the test when a deranged murderer forces Ethan to amputate his own finger on camera in exchange for the safety of his son. Ethan is giving strict instructions, a time limit, and an assortment of sharp instruments in order to complete the task. The tension in the scene couldn't be higher, as players are forced to engage in the sadistic act via a button sequence. If completed, you're forced to watch Ethan scream out in agony while mourning the loss of his severed pinky.

#3: Eye Surgery

“Dead Space 2” (2011)

Surgery is never a fun experience, especially when you have to perform the act on yourself. Systems engineer Isaac Clarke finds himself in this unfortunate predicament upon realizing the information he needs to destroy the marker is embedded in his right eye socket. The game then requires the player to take control of the nerve-racking operation, by slowly lowering a lethal mechanical device precisely into his pupil. Isaac's escalating heartbeat and darting eyes does little to help your steady hand, as one wrong slip and ...

#2: Pyramid Head

“Silent Hill 2” (2001)

This game's horror depictions are the kind of stuff nightmares are made of. The Silent Hill series has made it a goal to completely traumatize its players with its taboo imagery, and this one moment has most likely topped them all. Beating out other scenarios is the scene where you witness Pyramid Head assaulting a couple of the enemy mannequins in a dark corridor. What may be more terrifying than the scene itself is the fact that each of the monsters are void of sound or emotion, making the debacle particularly chilling.

#1: No Russian

“Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” (2009)

Video games have given the players the option to kill innocent characters for years, but when it is the prime objective of your mission, how easy is it for you to pull the trigger? This highly controversial moment tested the resolve of each and every player on the game's fourth mission, where they are specifically instructed to slaughter an airport full of civilians in order to secure your Makarov’s men. The depictions of chaos and murder are undeniably disturbing, especially given the all-too-close to life subject matter – but the worst part of all might be that you don’t actually have to ever pull the trigger here, but most players did anyway.